The idea was novel. It had promise. It was exciting. Yet part of me still baulked. “People won’t take me seriously.” “I will be ridiculed.” “It is too alien: no businessman would be interested.” Those were just some of the doubts that paralyzed me.
Learning and development
Continuing with the last week’s theme and pursuing the subject of leadership and the question of whether or not you are a good leader, another area worth assessing is your organisational well-being. Is this a topic you ever consider and, if so, to what extent? Ideally you will regularly be asking yourself:
- What is the state of our organisational well-being?
- Am I doing enough or could/should I being doing more to improve it?
Yet you are perhaps unlikely to be doing so. Why? Because there does not even seem to be any generally accepted definition of organisational well-being!
If you are supremely confident, you might respond quickly, “Of course!” If you are more modest or less confident you might say, “I think so.” Either way, the likelihood is, like most executives and senior leaders, you are accustomed to empirical performance measures and will therefore have a reasonable basis for your answer. Accustomed to being in control and, perhaps unwilling to come across as unsure, you would be unlikely to stall by asking, “What do you mean by good?”
Yet, ‘good’ is a subjective term, and you would be quite within your rights to seek further clarification, or even to pull out that old consulting chestnut by responding, “It depends.” The fact is, your answer might well depend on who is operating the lie-detector and what lies behind the question or where the emphasis lies. Hopefully, however, the pressure derives from the lie-detector and this is a question you regularly ask yourself anyway. (If it isn’t, you definitely have little right to answer positively. A good leader will always be questioning their performance and looking to do better.)
So let’s move on to take a look at what you are doing to assess your leadership, and perhaps identify pointers for improvement.
You don’t have to be a leader to be aware of the pace of change and the challenges of competing and surviving in today’s global market. As a leader, however, you certainly face them every working hour; perhaps every waking hour and possibly even in your sleep. But then, no-one ever said survival was easy. On the contrary, you’ve always relished the fact it isn’t, and that is what has driven you.
Even so, there must be times when you feel like an early explorer and question why you ever embarked on your journey. If you do, there is no shame in admitting it. Those intrepid sailors must have had doubts in the face of severe storms miles away from anything familiar. And your situation is not dissimilar. You may not have left the shore, but you are just as much a pioneer, trying to map out routes for others to follow. No-one has ever before had to meet the challenges you do, on the scale you do, or with the consequences you face. Arguably, the risks are no less significant now than they were then.
If you haven’t ever considered yourself in this light, perhaps now is a good time to do so. And to question how you are performing in the role.
We are now well into the new year. As the days pass and you settle back into your routine, you may find yourself struggling to keep your resolutions. You may even already have broken them. Certainly all the promise of New Year is likely to have lost its lustre.
This a very human phenomenon. At its core is humankind’s love of all things new. But, by definition, newness doesn’t last long. And, as the newness wears off, so does our interest and enthusiasm. We become bored and blasé. New Year perhaps epitomises this more than anything. But, is it a valid example?
It seems to come around more quickly than ever, as if trying to catch you by surprise. Nevertheless, ready or not, it is once again the time of the year to take a break from business and the responsibilities of everyday life and focus on things that are just as - and possibly even more - important. No doubt you have earned the break and, however long yours is, as you take it, I wish you and yours everything you wish yourself for the festive season holidays and the coming New Year. May you see the fulfillment of every one, and even more. I look forward to your company again in the New Year.
If you like what you have read contact me today to discuss how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model could provide the catalyst to help you create a culture in which everyone cares and the business becomes our business, embedding improvement that transforms – and sustains – organic business performance.
Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.
When will we learn, or, as Bob Dylan put it, “When will we ever learn?” That is the question I found myself pondering after reading two very different articles this week.
Much as I would like to take credit for (what I think is) a catchy headline, it is actually inspired by an October 2016 Harvard Business Review article: “Why Leadership Training Fails – and What to Do About It.” The article justifies the phrase by saying that, globally, companies spent $356 billion on employee training and education in 2015 but are not getting a good return on their investment, as “learning doesn’t lead to better organizational performance, because people soon revert to their old way of doing things.” If you contributed to that global figure, I suspect you already know that!
Nevertheless, the “What to do about it” aspect makes the article worth reading. Beware, however, the “leadership training” focus. Its undoubted relevance to leaders ensures it inevitably applies to all organizational training. Any narrower focus, unfortunately, is limiting. As it is, I think it perhaps constrained the writers and led them to omit points that would increase the return on all training investment. Let me share some.
It often seems that people stand in the way of their own success. They get so focused on whatever they are trying to achieve that their thinking becomes habit, they fail to see, let alone consider, other options and their thought patterns and consequent behaviours become shackles. This inevitably limits outcomes and inhibits their own success. That is why there is more than a little validity to the old cliché, “You are your own worst enemy.” It takes an outsider to identify their issues, and even then they may not always change.
So perhaps, rather than a cliché, we should consider it as a statement of fact. Doing so immediately makes it universal and demands remedial action. Particularly if you recognise the implication that it also applies to any CEO or business leader! Then you are compelled to take a closer look at yourself and your role, and ask yourself, “How am I impeding my success and that of my organisation or team?”
Opening yourself up to this possibility is only the beginning. It does not provide any answers in and of itself. Furthermore every situation is unique and different which makes it unlikely that there is a single solution. Yet, much of our rigid thinking is the result of inadvertent acceptance of collective thought, whether it is called ‘conventional wisdom’ or whether it is simply unconscious influence. Recognising that provides a good starting point in the quest for solutions, not least because it suggests that your issues might not be as unique as you think.
Let me illustrate what I am getting at.
“At any level of management, you took the job knowing that the role put you in charge and on the hot seat for every success and failure on the team — no exceptions.” Those words from Liz Ryan pack a powerful punch and certainly grabbed my attention. I don’t know whether you will agree or not, and in any case you need to read the whole article “Stop Blaming Your Employees for Your Leadership Mistakes” to appreciate all the lady is saying. I do hope, however, that you will agree it is food for thought.
That is definitely the case with her later line that “If you blame people for your stumbles, you won’t see your own part in the incident.” This had me wondering whether a failure to understand this is perhaps the root cause of the science-practitioner gap in leadership that I described in my last blog. With trust increasingly becoming a major topic in management and leadership circles this is definitely a question worth following up.